Indoor picnic assembly on the Lower and Upper East Sides.

After a foodwise-mediocre but atmosphere-perfect (dig the park-view outdoor seating) and cost-effective brunch ($10 with juice or well-spiced Bloody Mary, coffee included) at Esperanto on Sunday, my girlfriend and I decided to wander down to SoHo, slowly.  Some of the nice things about a rambling Sunday excursion are the surprises en route, and one of this Sunday’s surprises was the farmer’s market at the southwest corner of Tompkins Square Park.

A great deal smaller than the more well-known Saturday Union Square farmer’s market, the Tompkins market had an impressive array of foods available, especially apples.  Being that it is prime local apple season, I wandered from stand to stand admiring the array of possibilities, daydreaming of pies.  I settled on Macintosh apples – ¾ dozen for under four dollars, a much better price than I’d been paying at Blue Ribbon Bakery Market for virtually the same thing.

As we wandered back towards 7th St., we noticed a stand selling various kinds of breads, and I had a thought: as we had no dinner plans, and, given our brunch hour, probably wouldn’t want to eat until late anyway, why not make a meal of peasant bread, cured meats, and cheeses?  We bought half a loaf of a crumbly, dense white bread from the vendor to this end, and our final purchases of the farmer’s market were a dollar cup of hot apple cider (delicious – fresh makes all the difference here), and a four-inch pecan pie ($2.50).

After a brief trip to the Apple store (I got a kick from toting a bag full of fresh Macintosh apples in), we headed to Ciao Bella’s scoop shop on Mott between Prince and Houston.  Momentarily saddened to see that they didn’t have any chocolate sorbet available for fresh pack, we tasted the pumpkin gelato – almost immediately, the chocolate sorbet longing was a distant memory.  Absolutely amazing stuff – between it and the pumpkin pie custard that Shake Shack was featuring a week or two ago, I’m not sure I have a need to eat pumpkin pie in its standard form any longer.

We chose to get a fresh pack pint of the pumpkin gelato ($5.75), so we had make a beeline to the freezer uptown, via the 6 and, strangely, 2 trains.  On the way from the station to home, we stopped at Melange (1st Ave. between 64th and 65th Sts.), a purveyor of cured meats, cheeses, and Middle Eastern desserts, among other things.  Melange claims in their window to have the lowest prices in town, and it’s certainly hard to argue with that assessment: we purchased ¼ lb each of sopressata (sweet and salami-like) and capicola (hot and ham-like), ½ lb of fresh mozzarella, a small container of olives, and a wedge of brie for about fifteen dollars.  I can’t imagine doing the same at Whole Foods for so little money – we figured it would cost at least 50% more there.  I plan on trying the myriad array of pastries (ruglach, baklava, etc.) next time – there was also a Close Encounters-esque mountain of an unidentified beige sweet that I’m jonesing to try sooner than later.

Once home, the olive oil flowed like water, and the meats and cheeses made a perfect combination.  A better Sunday night light dinner one couldn’t ask for…though I guess it was only light until we broke out the gelato.  And, as far as its impact on the wallet was concerned – we already had the oil and balsamic vinegar, as I’m sure most of you do.  Meats, cheeses, and olives were $15, and we had leftovers of the sopressata and the brie.  The bread was $3, and we polished off only half of our half loaf.  The pecan pie was pretty forgettable (maybe it would have been better re-baked), but an apple or two went well with the cheeses (let’s say you’re not as much of a nut as I am, and buy three apples for around $1).  Sans gelato, we spent less than $10 a person, had a satisfying feast AND a nice walk around Lower Manhattan.  On a beautiful fall Sunday afternoon, it’s an itinerary that can’t be beat.

1 Comment

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One response to “Indoor picnic assembly on the Lower and Upper East Sides.

  1. My itnerary would include some bakeries (not one, SOME), but your day sounded great! 😀I find it funny that you ate half of a half loaf since I’ve had experience with eating entire whole loaves. Tehn again, I didn’t have the meat and cheese to go with it. …then again, I love bread so much, I don’t think that would make a difference.I’ve never tried Ciao Bella. Just passed it. Innumerable times. *sob*Just about anything tasts better after you rebake it. Once I re-baked a donut. Oh man, good stuff.

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